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How to set performance-boosting OKRs for sales teams (with 7 examples)

OKR for Sales
What are sales OKRs and how do they improve performance?
7 OKR examples for sales teams
5 tips on improving sales performance using OKRs
Final thoughts

Goals help sales reps stay motivated and empower leaders to measure performance.

However, unrealistic goals can hinder productivity by demotivating your team. This is why it’s important to use a considered, well-defined goal-setting process.

Creating objectives and key results (OKRs) is a proven goal-setting method that, when used correctly, can boost collaboration, empower team members to meet sales quotas and drive more revenue for your organization.

In this article, we’ll share how your sales team can leverage OKRs to improve performance and list seven OKR examples for inspiration.

What are sales OKRs and how do they improve performance?

Objectives and key results (OKRs) is a strategic framework that business and team leaders can use to set quantifiable goals that contribute to individual, team and organizational success.

Every OKR has three elements:

  1. An objective. Typically ambitious, the objective is sometimes specific and easily measurable, but not always.

  2. A timeframe. Businesses often use three-month periods to align objectives with their quarterly calendars, but you can use OKRs to track progress across any period.

  3. A list of key results. Key results should increase in difficulty (the first being the easiest to achieve and the last being the most difficult) and act as milestones that get your team closer to the objective. Three is a good number of key results to aim for, but you can use any quantity, depending on your requirements.

You can set all kinds of OKRs in sales, meaning they’re flexible tools for monitoring and improving team performance.

For example, your sales team’s objective could be to increase revenue from deals with European customers by 20% within three months. A broader, less measurable version would be to improve revenue from deals with European customers.

The key results that contribute to this objective could be to:

  • Implement a new training program for sales reps targeting European prospects (least difficult)

  • Publish 10 new testimonials or positive reviews from existing European customers on the company’s website (average difficulty)

  • Close deals with 25 new European customers who have an annual contract value (AVC) above $2,000 (most difficult)

The benefits of OKRs for sales leaders and teams

OKRs directly link company-wide performance and smaller team and individual goals.

They allow reps to work on day-to-day sales targets, like meeting quotas, without losing sight of their team or company’s broader objectives.

In a small global survey of OKR adopters, There Be Giants found respondents’ top three aims of using the system to be:

  1. Aligning their organization’s vision and strategy

  2. Achieving transparency

  3. Creating accountability

Around 70% of respondents said that OKRs had helped them achieve the positive impact they’d aimed for.

As well as giving reps a greater sense of purpose, OKRs enable sales managers to:

  • Give clear direction to every team and salesperson to increase productivity

  • Track team and individual progress to identify top performers and reps who need extra support

  • Identify skills gaps and development opportunities to increase their team’s effectiveness

  • Improve resource allocation to streamline the sales process and reduce customer acquisition cost (CAC)

  • Demonstrate and prove their team’s effectiveness to their organization’s leaders

OKRs, SMART goals and KPIs: What’s the difference?

OKRs are sometimes mentioned alongside (and even confused with) SMART goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), but each term has its own meaning.

SMART (an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) is another goal-setting methodology that businesses can use to create and validate individual or small team goals.

It’s difficult to measure the progress of an entire sales organization using SMART goals, which is one reason why OKRs are also popular.

KPIs are the metrics by which an individual or team’s success is measured, such as total deals closed, sales volume by location or revenue generated. That measurable success could come from progress towards a SMART goal, achieving the key results of an OKR or through any other type of goal.

7 OKR examples for sales teams

While every business and team has its own ambitions, requirements and challenges, seeing some tangible examples of OKRs for sales teams can speed up your goal-setting process.

Here are seven to help you understand how to structure your goals and the kind of outcomes you can target.

1. Objective: Increase quarterly revenue by 10%

If your team has struggled to hit targets recently or you just feel it could perform better, set a quantifiable objective to increase revenue generated in the next quarter.

There are various ways your team can contribute to this broad objective, as you’ll see in its key results.

Timeframe: Three months

  • Key result 1: Record $10,000 in sales of a specific product

  • Key result 2: Upsell a product to 10% of new customers

  • Key result 3: Reduce the team’s CAC by 5%

2. Objective: Shorten the sales cycle from 60 days to 55 days

Shortening your sales cycle increases revenue by giving reps more time to spend on closing deals with new customers.

When setting key results for this objective, break your sales cycle down into sections or activities and consider how you can streamline each one.

Timeframe: Two months

  • Key result 1: Enroll 10 team members in a sales negotiation course

  • Key result 2: Introduce mobile-friendly online contracts

  • Key result 3: Using historical customer data from your CRM, create four up-to-date buyer personas

Better understand your customers with our Buyer Persona Templates

Use these templates to ensure your solution always aligns with your customers' interests and needs

3. Objective: Build a strategic partnership network to boost referral sales

Referrals help salespeople land new customers and achieve their sales goals, so working towards a partnership-based OKR can be a great way to boost overall team performance.

Sales Insight Lab research shows that almost half of top sales performers ask for referrals consistently.

Timeframe: 12 months

  • Key result 1: Create partnership proposal and agreement templates

  • Key result 2: Shortlist and meet with 15 prospective partners

  • Key result 3: Close deals with eight partners

4. Objective: Strengthen sales-and-marketing alignment

According to a LinkedIn survey, 85% of sales and marketing leaders agree that increasing collaboration between the two functions is their largest opportunity for improving business performance.

Bring your own teams closer together using a short-term sales-and-marketing alignment OKR.

Timeframe: one month

  • Key result 1: Introduce a weekly hour-long collaborative meeting

  • Key result 2: Work with marketing to create new sales enablement content for three products

  • Key result 3: Close five deals with marketing-qualified leads (MQLs)

5. Objective: Improve the onboarding process for new customers

First impressions matter. By giving new customers the best possible onboarding experience, you’ll increase the likelihood of them becoming loyal brand advocates.

Timeframe: three months

  • Key result 1: Issue customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys to all customers after one month of product use

  • Key result 2: Achieve a positive CSAT score of 85% for new customers

  • Key result 3: Reduce quarterly churn rate to 2%

6. Objective: Improve salesforce diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

According to a Forrester study commissioned by LinkedIn, sales organizations with leading DEI practices have higher sales forecasts, conversion rates and customer satisfaction levels than those with immature DEI practices.

Vary the focus of your key results in this OKR to diversify your sales team naturally and sustainably.

Timeframe: six months

  • Key result 1: Create a new, more inclusive and neutral careers web page

  • Key result 2: Introduce monthly anonymous employee satisfaction surveys and record results

  • Key result 3: Interview five candidates from underrepresented groups for vacant sales rep roles

7. Objective: Increase overall sales team efficiency

The more time your reps spend on selling, the more deals they’ll close. However, only 53% of respondents in the Pipedrive State of Sales Report 2020–2021 cited selling as their main day-to-day activity, suggesting there’s room for streamlining in most sales organizations.

When used intelligently, CRM tools and automation can give your reps more time to work on lead conversion.

Timeframe: Three months

  • Key result 1: Arrange CRM refresher training for 20 sales reps

  • Key result 2: Automate three administrative processes using a CRM tool or other technology

  • Key result 3: Increase the average time spent on selling activities across all reps by 10%

5 tips on improving sales performance using OKRs

Good sales OKR examples are useful for inspiration, but you should work with your team to design and implement goals that will benefit your organization.

Here are five tips to help you improve your team’s sales performance and increase revenue using OKRs.

1. Identify opportunities to improve performance

Start by listing the areas in which your team needs to improve.

A CRM with pipeline management and sales tracking and reporting tools, like sales analytics dashboards, will provide the performance data you need to spot opportunities. Don’t be afraid to discuss weaknesses with reps for an even clearer picture (more on involving your team coming up).

If you see that your team regularly loses deals at a certain sales pipeline stage, create an OKR to address it.

For example, if leads keep going cold at the first point of contact, work on improving your cold calling scripts. If closing is the big obstacle, arrange negotiation training for your team.

2. Align your OKRs with your business’s performance objectives

McKinsey reports that 91% of companies with effective performance management systems link their employees’ individual goals to wider business priorities.

Align your team’s OKRs with your company’s performance objectives (large-scale goals with specific, measurable results, usually set by business leaders) and reps will see the value in what you’re asking them to do. This purpose should motivate them to work hard at contributing to key results.

3. Provide clear direction for individual employees

Just as team OKRs should be linked with business-wide performance objectives, they must also align with the targets and tasks you set for individual reps.

OKR expert and author Paul Niven said in an interview with Just 3 Things:

Once you have created your OKRs, you need to think about how you incorporate them into your working rhythm – many companies make the mistake of putting effort into creating OKRs but then not looking at them again for 90 days. They need to be living and breathing to be effective.

If you’ve set an OKR to increase quarterly revenue by 10%, and it has a key result to record $10,000 in sales of a new product, consider how you can spread the responsibility for this across your team and track individual progress.

You could set individual targets for all reps to sell an equal share of the target amount (e.g. 10 reps selling $1,000 of the product each within the given timeframe) or you might account for reps’ strengths and weaknesses (e.g. a rep who specializes in the product in question selling a larger share).

4. Make OKRs a collaborative process

Involve your team from the start of the OKR process to ensure everyone buys into your objectives. Communication from both sides is essential.

Be clear about what you’re trying to achieve, how it fits into the bigger picture of business performance and how your team will benefit personally.

Personal benefits to consider include:

  • A process becomes easier and, therefore, less stressful for your reps

  • The OKR creates an opportunity for reps to improve their skills (e.g. if one of the key results involves sales training)

  • Achieving the key results will lead to a financial bonus or larger commission

In return, get your reps’ views on performance and improvement opportunities and use these to choose realistic targets.

5. Document (and learn from) your team’s OKR progress

Arrange weekly check-ins with individual reps and the sales department to track OKR progress.

You can document this progress by ticking off tasks on a form, in a spreadsheet or, better, in dedicated OKR software.

In Pipedrive, you can set goals for specific users, specific teams or the entire company. Set permissions to control goal visibility and add goals to your dashboard for a continuous motivator.

When your team or an individual achieves a key result or makes significant progress towards one, celebrate the feat and encourage them to keep up the good work.

You might not hit every target (if you do, try being more ambitious when setting OKRs), but falling short isn’t the same as a complete failure. If a rep or your team doesn’t achieve what you’d hoped, ask what they found most challenging and motivating so you can set more effective (and attainable) objectives next time.

Final thoughts

Goals are essential in sales, but they must be realistic, relevant and measurable to be useful.

You can use the OKR framework to set a variety of goals and initiatives that tick all three of these boxes and ultimately contribute to your team’s success.

Progress toward carefully considered and planned OKRs will improve your team’s performance and help you increase your organization’s profitability.

Better understand your customers with our Buyer Persona Templates

Use these templates to ensure your solution always aligns with your customers' interests and needs

Driving business growth